Is a Sleep Robot a Robot?

What exactly is a robot? A humanoid creature that does only the “job” of looking human? An industrial robot, a machine using programmatically controlled movements to do work, is for sure a robot. What about the bots that run the majority of Twitter accounts? What about Alexa, Roomba, or the trash can that automatically opens when you wave a bit of debris above its lid? And — a new question — what about a sleep robot?

A sleep robot is essentially a stuffed object that mimics relaxed human breathing. Its makers, Somnox, describe it as a soft robot, but users are reminded of a stuffed toy. It’s shaped like a lima bean and has no face (though there are glowing eyes when it first powers up), so it’s not exactly a stuffed animal, but it might be an electronic pillow. Cuddle up to it while you sleep, manufacturers say, and you will naturally take on the same breathing pattern and experience better sleep.

It has a sensor for carbon dioxide, programmable sounds and other customizations, and you can upload sounds for it if you want Bach instead of an Enya-esque audio experience. The company has big plans for future iterations, too.

Does it work? The jury is still out on this. The Paro robot seal has been studied more than the Somnox sleep robot, and it has been shown to have therapeutic value. However, one study conducted with a control group using ordinary stuffed animals concluded that it didn’t improve sleep. It doesn’t simulate breathing, so that may be the difference.

Whether it works or not, is it a robot?

What is a robot?

Robotics experts don’t actually agree on what a robot is. Neither do ordinary people. In the 1920s, when the word came into the language, it was used to describe just about any machine that did a job a human had previously done, whether it was a “robot elevator” or a “robot air pilot.”

Many people consider a robot a robot only if it moves. Alexa, then, would be a mere AI application. Vesta, the rumored Alexa upgrade with the ability to move around, would be a full-fledged robot.

We specialize in Rexroth Indramat electronic motion control, so we might be biased in favor of the idea that robots can’t be robots if they don’t move. If your Rexroth industrial motion control is not keeping your robots up too snuff, we can help. We fast track repair and reman and we have the largest inventory of Rexroth drive and control units in the nation. Call us for immediate assistance.

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